Popular Mechanics
Lobstermen Go Racing Image Credit: Popular Mechanics
Lobstermen Go Racing Image Credit: Popular Mechanics

Lobstermen Go Racing

There’s a horsepower war that happens off the coast of Maine. I entered. First prize: a bucket of bait.

Ezra Dyer

YOU ASK A Maine lobster-boat racer what kind of horsepower he’s running. The first answer will always be a dutiful recitation of the factory specification, usually delivered with a smirk. Ask again, and the second answer might be more like the truth. Like if his 18.1-liter CAT diesel was rated for 700 horsepower before he made a few mods—free-flowing intake and exhaust, at the very least—maybe he’d acknowledge it’s more like 800 horsepower now. If the first answer is 1,000, the second might be more like 1,200. But the reality is that nobody knows. It’s not like you can dyno-test a commercial fishing boat. All you know is that when you’re done hauling 600 lobster traps, you get back to the harbor a little quicker than you did before. And when you enter a race some weekend over the summer, you’ve got some extra speed in your back pocket.

Yes: Maine lobster-boat races. It sounds like a goof, like the fall pumpkin races that they hold in Damariscotta, where they mount outboard motors on giant gourds and race around the harbor. But it’s serious, an annual circuit with events up and down the coast. Some of the boats are purpose-built racers, trailered to each event, cammed-up big-blocks bursting through their decks. They’re lobster boats in the same way that Joey Logano’s Nascar race car is a Mustang. But most of the entrants are actual commercial fishing vessels, work boats that happen to b

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